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The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is temporarily allowing audits and fishery assessments to be conducted remotely in light of the coronavirus pandemic and in consideration of the welfare of all individuals participating in its certification program.

19 March 2020

Audits of sustainable fisheries and businesses would normally be conducted on-site but the virus outbreak has led the organisation to allow independent auditors to conduct assessments remotely where necessary. 

Auditors should retain evidence of any restrictions which prevent site visits and maintain a list of certificate holders where remote assessments have been conducted.

This temporary change applies to both fisheries and supply chain organisations with an MSC certificate.

Once the travel restrictions and precautions associated with the coronavirus have been lifted, site visits and audits should be conducted as per regular assessment and audit procedures. The MSC will review this change in requirements at the end of May and monthly thereafter.

The MSC works with auditors globally to assess fishing sustainability and traceability in supply chains that bring sustainable fish and seafood to consumers around the world.

These auditors, who work for independent conformity assessment bodies (CABs), apply the MSC’s scientific standards. 

The MSC has advised auditors to use the best available technology. If auditors are unable to fulfill any requirements of the MSC standards remotely, they will record these exceptions.

The MSC is reviewing its current audit and certification requirements in relation to the global pandemic and plans to communicate further instructions to CABs and certificate holders in the coming days.

In line with social distancing advice, the MSC has closed its own offices in many countries. Staff will continue to work as normal from home.

Dr Rohan Currey, MSC Chief Science and Standards Officer, said: “The MSC is actively looking at how we can best support our valued partners through this exceptionally challenging time. The initial step to allow off-site audits will enable ongoing confidence in the MSC certified supply chain while also supporting global efforts to minimise the spread of coronavirus. Over the coming weeks we’ll be looking at other ways in which we can further adapt our program to minimise risks and support our partners as they grapple with the immediate challenges faced by the industry.”